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Biomaterials. 2013 Sep;34(28):6785-96. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2013.05.060. Epub 2013 Jun 14.

Transdermal regulation of vascular network bioengineering using a photopolymerizable methacrylated gelatin hydrogel.

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Department of Cardiac Surgery, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The search for hydrogel materials compatible with vascular morphogenesis is an active area of investigation in tissue engineering. One candidate material is methacrylated gelatin (GelMA), a UV-photocrosslinkable hydrogel that is synthesized by adding methacrylate groups to the amine-containing side-groups of gelatin. GelMA hydrogels containing human endothelial colony-forming cells (ECFCs) and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be photopolymerized ex vivo and then surgically transplanted in vivo as a means to generate vascular networks. However, the full clinical potential of GelMA will be best captured by enabling minimally invasive implantation and in situ polymerization. In this study, we demonstrated the feasibility of bioengineering human vascular networks inside GelMA constructs that were first subcutaneously injected into immunodeficient mice while in liquid form, and then rapidly crosslinked via transdermal exposure to UV light. These bioengineered vascular networks developed within 7 days, formed functional anastomoses with the host vasculature, and were uniformly distributed throughout the constructs. Most notably, we demonstrated that the vascularization process can be directly modulated by adjusting the initial exposure time to UV light (15-45 s range), with constructs displaying progressively less vascular density and smaller average lumen size as the degree of GelMA crosslinking was increased. Our studies support the use of GelMA in its injectable form, followed by in situ transdermal photopolymerization, as a preferable means to deliver cells in applications that require the formation of vascular networks in vivo.

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